CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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PARTY OF THIRTEEN

When we were young parents of very young children, going out to eat with my parents or others was more work than it was worth.  On our best days, there seemed to be “that one” among the three who would be the challenge of the moment.  “I don’t like that, I only want ice cream.”  “I need to go the bathroom”, (for the 3rd time).  “Stop breathing on me—he’s leaning on me!”  “Ouch, that hurts, (with a slap back under the table).”  Yeah, eating out with an obstinate one, not with “the program”, is not pleasant.  And let’s not even talk about the activity of toddlers leaving the table without permission to explore what is under the table while you’re not looking.  Out of the three children in our family, we could count on at least one of them misbehaving.  We had many teachable moments, to put it mildly.

Jesus had “the one” at His Table, the last Passover meal He would have with his beloved disciples.  Jesus knew “the one” who would betray Him in the middle of the meal.  Jesus loved him anyway.  Did you get that?  Jesus bent down to wash his feet along with the other eleven in a act of service that surprised them all. (See John 13) Jesus served Judas at the table of tradition, honoring God while thanking God for their rescue from death, centuries before, as they fled Egyptian captivity.  God provided a way out for His Chosen People then; God was providing a way back to Him in relationship through the sacrifice Jesus would make in a few hours. 

But there was “the one” who had sold Jesus out to the enemy a few hours earlier and now sat at the table with him as if nothing was wrong.  Scripture foretold the betrayal.  Jesus knew what Judas had done for He knows his heart.  Jesus, The Master Teacher has watched over Judas, has been living with his and the others on the road, experienced his attitude about money and power, but most of all Jesus, Son of God, saw right through him to the heart of Judas, “the one” who would betray Him.

Jesus says in a loud enough voice so those around him at the table hear Him, “One of you will betray me.” 

“Is it me?”  Confused, each disciples takes a turn to examine their motives—except “the one”.  Judas knows it is him, but innocently responds like the rest, “Is it me?”.  Jesus knows it is him and tells him to leave The Table to go do what Judas has decided to do.  Judas had a choice.  But God knew what choice he would make.

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 26:17-30, NLT

The Last Supper

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?”

18 “As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there.

20 When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve. 21 While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

22 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”

23 He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. 24 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

25 Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”

26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

30 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

AFTER JUDAS LEFT THE TABLE…

The Eleven with Jesus are now taught that Jesus will be The Lamb of sacrifice, replacing the animal lamb of sacrifice.  “My blood, My body” confirms the New Covenant between God and His people.  Sin will be forgiven forever, once and for all, for all who believe and call on the Name of Jesus.

Those who believe will join Jesus and live in God’s Kingdom forever.

Do you know Him?  God knows this answer.  Do you?  You have a choice.  Choose wisely and don’t wait.  Jesus IS coming back, you know.  Jesus is with all who believe right now through His Holy Spirit who takes up residence in our minds, hearts and souls!  Restore or begin a new relationship with the God who loves you more than you can imagine, so much so, He went to hell and back again for you.  Jesus is the victor over evil and death.  Jesus is the One and Only who shows the Way to Truth of Life forever.  Come.

Abba, Father, Lord and Savior,

Thank you.  Even on our most obstinate days, you still love us.  You teach us.  You saved us from our sins.  Thank you.  Thank you for inviting us to The Table of grace, hope, peace and eternal joy.  Your blood, your body saved my soul.  I need your grace and mercy daily.  Continue to transform me to be all you created me to be before doing anything.  And whatever is done, may it be for your glory, honor and praise.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE PLOT THICKENS

I cannot get over the words, “what a waste” in our passage today.  When is it ever a waste to honor the Son of God?  Jesus has come directly from the throne of God with a mission from God to seek and to save the world all because of His love for the world.  Jesus has traveled with these disciples and followers for three years, teaching them about who God really is, what He wants from us, while revealing His will and plan for them.  What a privilege to be chosen to walk physically with Him, beside Him each day in wonder and amazement as He miraculously helps and heals people in mind, body and soul.  He is God in flesh, the Word, walking around, who will soon be their Savior! 

But some still don’t get it.  The disciples, led by an angry Judas who would rather Jesus be a revolutionary of the worldly kind, are indignant at this outpouring of affection!  Seriously?  A woman who does “get it”, gives of her very best and most expensive perfume that was probably purchased and kept as a savings account for when she or a loved one dies.  This type of alabaster jar is sealed until it is needed for the work of preserving the dead.  The only way to remove the contents is by breaking the neck of the jar to pour it out.  Once opened, there’s no turning back.  The precious oil, is broken and spilled out on the One and Only who would redeem people by taking all sin upon Himself to a cross of shame and rejection.  Jesus poured out his life to redeem/save/buy back our life.

And what did the prophets say? 

“…he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.  For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12, NIV

“Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the Lord Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered…” Zachariah 13:7, quoted by Jesus to his disciples.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)

Fulfillment by Jesus 

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11)

“But when they came to Jesus, they saw that He was dead already, so they didn’t break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out. This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account; it is presented so that you also can believe. These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, ‘Not one of His bones will be broken,’ and ‘They will look on Him whom they pierced.’” (John 19:31-37)

No broken bones, but His body pierced, His lifeblood spilled out for you and me.  What kind of love is this?  How precious is the blood shed for you and me?  No words.  Our emotions take over in tears of gratitude.  This is amazing, relentless, never ending love of God displayed in His Son!  Whatever we have on earth will be never enough to honor the One who saved us.

Judas, disgusted by the “expensive” act of honor, who held the purse strings as the group treasurer, decided to carry out his plan to betray Jesus.  The loving act of this woman was his tipping point.  He sold Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver.  God knew he would. 

“I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”  Jesus was right, as always, we are still discussing her deed of honor along with Judas’ act of betrayal. 

Where do we stand?  Our behavior in this world will reflect what we truly believe about God.

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 26:6-13, NLT

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

14 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests 15 and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

ONE LAST THOUGHT…PAUSE TO PRAY

What will we break open within these “jars of clay” (us) to honor Jesus today? 

What is so precious within us that we might be holding back?

Our Treasure in Jars of Clay

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-12 ESV

“What a waste”, you ask? It’s Giving up! 

Jesus renews and feeds our souls each day!

“So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”  2 Corinthians 4:16-17, ESV 

Lord, God of Heaven,

Thank you for saving our souls from ourselves, from our own foolish thinking, which leads to selfish living.  Thank you for this teaching, your example of living life, as well as your sacrifice for our redemption from sin and all the sadness and destruction that goes with living without you.  I’m yours, Lord, all that I have, all that I am, the good and bad, it’s all yours to mold, shape, break open and use for your glory. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

And I’m singing…I Offer My Life, by Don Moen

All that I am, all that I have
I lay them down before You, oh Lord
All my regrets, all my acclaims
The joy and the pain, I’m making them Yours

Lord, I offer my life to You
Everything I’ve been through, use it for Your glory
Lord I offer my days to You
Lifting my praise to You as a pleasing sacrifice
Lord I offer You my life

Things in the past, things yet unseen
Wishes and dreams that are yet to come true
All of my hopes, all of my plans
My heart and my hands are lifted to You

Lord, I offer my life to You
Everything I’ve been through, use it for Your glory
Lord I offer my days to You
Lifting my praise to You as a pleasing sacrifice
Lord I offer You my life

What can we give that You have not given?
And what do we have that is not already Yours?
All we possess are these lives we’re living
That’s what we give to You, Lord

Lord, I offer my life to You
Everything I’ve been through, use it for Your glory
Lord I offer my days to You
Lifting my praise to You as a pleasing sacrifice
Lord I offer You my life…

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DO WE REALLY THINK GOD DOESN’T KNOW?

I remember plotting the “crime of the century”—well, for a nine-year-old.  While my parents were out working in the yard on a sunny, hot Saturday morning in the Oklahoma summer heat, I had a plan.  Under the guise of getting a cold drink in the house, I held my head low, barefoot as usual, and cautiously crept into their bedroom.  I don’t know why I thought I had to be so quiet, everyone was in the yard, even my pesky little brother.  My birthday was in August, a few days away.  I knew they had purchased my gift and I was compelled with a plan to get a peek at the prize! 

But, being short of stature, the high shelf above their closet where they generally hid gifts would require an additional plot to the plan of discovery.  It meant climbing on their bed, to try to reach the closet door that led to the shelf.  No luck.  New plan, panicking because I’m running out of time, I drag a kitchen chair into the bedroom.  I’m climbing from bed to chair, getting ready to open the door to the shelf that holds the answer to my seeking when mom appears in the screened bedroom window that is opened for ventilation.  She calmly but firmly says in her best mom voice, “What are you doing?”

Gotcha! Abort mission! Frightened by her appearance and words because of my guilt, I fell back on the bed from my perched chair.  Caught in the act, I responded as most kids do, “I dunno know.”  But mom knew.  Moms always know.  I didn’t figure out this phenomenon until I became a mom. 

God knows.  God always knows.  Jesus, God and man, has given his disciples a full description of what is going to happen to Him.  They still do not want to believe it.  Maybe they think he is figuratively speaking as he does in His parables.  Maybe they think, surely not, look at all the crowds who follow Him.  How can this be? 

Our next passage of Matthew reveals to us the power of God to know.  Jesus has just proclaimed the sins of the Pharisees and teachers of The Law in their presence.  He has said these things of truth as a way to turn people back to God.  Jesus loves all people.  Take note of all the parallels Matthew will give us as the “plot” thickens!

Jesus says to his followers, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”  What the disciples will not understand until later, the words of the prophets of God will be fulfilled in every detail.  “As you know…”; all the disciples seem to know and understand at this time is the tradition of Passover is to be observed.

“At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him.”  They just haven’t figured out quite yet that Jesus will be crucified by the Romans by their own manipulations while forgetting that Scripture foretold is being played out word for word.  Messiah, Son of God, will come and redeem His people and will be crucified.  Check out the book of Isaiah.

Matthew—God’s Law Fulfilled

Matthew 26:1-5, NLT

The Plot to Kill Jesus

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”

Yes, God knows what is happening and what will happen to His Son, sent to save the world of all sin by his sacrifice on a cross.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16) No surprises here.  Jesus, Son of God, knows.

We will take this chapter one portion of parallel at a time…stay tuned.

Lord, God of Heaven,

Thank you for saving our souls and making us whole.  Thank you for dying for a relationship with us!  We cannot appreciate, worship and love you enough.  Just the thought of all you did, all you went through, to show your love for us brings me to my knees.  You are God and we are not.  No one is like you.  No one loves us like you do!  Lord, I love you with all that is in me.  And no one can take that away from me.  Thank you.  You know my heart.  I’m glad you know all, are in all and in me.

In Jesus Name, Amen

Be Still and Know God.

Be Still and Know.

Be Still.

Be.

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IS THAT YOUR FINAL ANSWER?

Remember the game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”?  The contestants were asked various trivia questions on all kinds of topics followed by four possible answers to ponder then choose.  When they finally decided on their answer, the moderator would always ask, “Is that your final answer?”  In other words, have you thought that through clearly?  Have you, by the process of elimination, concluded that what you are choosing is indeed the right answer?  The moderator, Regis, took great joy in trying to trip up the contestants or cause them to rethink with, “Are you sure, is that your final answer?”

Jesus does not do that to us.  His teaching is clear.  Jesus is trustworthy.  God never changes in His ways and Jesus points this out in the following scenario.  The gravity of this teaching is based on God’s love for all who He has created.  Jesus shares that when we are helping and serving each other, one of His created, we are serving Him! 

John, the beloved disciples of Jesus, tells us in his writings, that God’s love is in us who believe and daily know God. (1 John 4) To know God is to know the love of God.  If we do not know God then we don’t know love.  Love serves and helps without even thinking about it.  It is a lifestyle.  It is not a program or even on a list of ministries. Serving with the love of God in us does not require a committee to decide if the person being served is worthy.  The only thought is that person needs help and God put me here to help.

Notice that those, (the righteous, in right standing with God) who are doing what God wants, had to ask when did we do these acts of love and kindness to you?  Jesus’ reply is priceless, “‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”  Serving others, each other, is serving Jesus Christ the King!  This is the final answer.  This is Truth.

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 25:31-46, NLT

The Final Judgment

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

EPILOGE – SOMETHING MORE TO REALIZE

There are only two choices in this life.  We love with God’s love in us, learn to know God more each day, serve and help others or we do not.  Jesus is pretty clear about what happens when we avoid helping others. 

“God so love the world that He sent His Son…”  Most of us can finish reciting John 3:16 but do we go beyond reciting to loving relationships with Jesus and with others?  Love God.  Love Others like He loves us.  We learned earlier from Matthew that these are the two greatest commandments, not suggestions, that all other commandments are based upon.  Love God first and always.  Love Others like God loves us.  This is His final answer.  What is ours?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Your word this morning convicts and challenges all at the same time. I repent of missed opportunities to serve you by serving others in need when presented with the choice.  Restore and renew the joy of your salvation in me.  Help me to realize the depth of your love, help, mercy and grace to me for it is then that I can love others more deeply with your love in me.  You have shown me your ways.  Help me now to fulfill what I know you want from me.  Help me to serve without over-thinking about it. Deliver us from the evil one who plants overthinking in our minds.  May we have the mind of you in us.  Continue to transform me to be and do all you created me to be and do.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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WELL DONE!

We all seek the bravos and accolades from others when we complete a task or project.  We acquire this taste for praise as soon as we learn to walk!  Why do you think toddlers run into a room full of family and even guests to announce their accomplishments as they finally do their business in the bathroom instead soiling their underwear!  Imagine the scene.  We all clap and praise them for doing what is now easy for us to do because of all the experience we have had. We have learned so well, in fact, it is now a habit we perform many times a day without thinking about it.  Come to think about it, there are many things we do each day as habit, things we do without thinking about it.

Being a great servant of God, doing what He asks of us in the way He wants it done could be a developed habit.  It all begins with God as the source, the owner of our souls because of our belief and faith in Jesus, His Son.  It begins with managing well what God has given to us.  Managing well is a skill that grows and matures as we say yes to God.  We invest in the guidance of His Holy Spirit in the management of what He has given to us to use to build His Kingdom.  God is in control of all circumstances.  He is the Giver of all we need to do His will.  Therefore, when guided by His Holy Spirit living in us, tapping in to the Power of His Spirit, our lives are exponentially more productive than if He was not. 

God created us to love Him back in worship and praise.  God commanded that we love each other like He loves us.  When we truly know and love God, His love is in us.  His love produces more love for each other.  This unique love produces a servant’s heart within us.  We want to serve God by serving others, helping them to know and believe in Him, too.  Serving becomes a habit as part of our praise back to God!  Our perfect example of loving and serving is Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  He came to earth to teach us how to serve by serving others.  He touched lives in ways no one else had done before.  God gave Jesus all He needed to do what He sent Him to do—to save the world of all sin.  God gave us Jesus.

PAUSE TO PRAY

What will we do with this gift of Jesus given to us by the Master, God?

Will we invest the knowledge of Jesus we have been given so others may know Him, too?

Is it possible to double the number of people who know Him by serving others with the gifts, talents, time and abilities He has so generously given to us?

Or will we hide our gift of Jesus, bury Him away in our souls, and tell no one?

We must prayerfully ask what God wants, listen, then obey what He asks.

In Jesus’ story today, He takes us to a new level of thinking about managing well what God has given to us.  He reminds us of the bottomline outcomes of our management skills in serving Him.  There are only two:

  1.  Well done, good and faithful servant which leads to celebration for eternity.
  2.  From those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away    followed by darkness forever.

Choose well.  Invest wisely. 

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 25:14-30, NLT

Parable of the Three Servants

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Heavenly Father,

Hallowed is Your Name.  May Your Kingdom come and reign in us and all around us.  Reveal your glory, power, plan and ways to us.  May Your Will be done in every detail of our lives on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day your plan for accomplishing what you want.  Thank you for all you have given us to manage in this life.  Provide all we need to accomplish your will and plan.  And forgive us our sins, missteps and mess-ups as we forgive others who have hurt us or hindered us on this journey.  Lead us not into temptations to quit, hide the Truth, or bury what you have so generously given to us, but deliver us from these evils.  Fight our inner battles with evil and help us to rise up with You victorious.  For you have all power so to you be all glory, honor and praise!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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HERE COMES THE BRIDE…GROOM!

Can you imagine a bride partying with her bridesmaids but never getting down to plan for the big day when the groom actually comes to marry her?  Can you imagine not being ready when the day arrives?  This is usually the nightmare of every young bride! 

Max Lucado tells a story from ages past about a stately prince and a peasant girl who fall in love. This is really a difficult one to understand. On the one hand is a prince who literally had the world at His disposal. There has never been a more perfect specimen of a man that ever lived. Nothing about Him was common. You wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that He is a perfect catch.

On the other hand there is a peasant girl. She is nothing more than average. At her best she is plain, but at her worst she can be just plain ugly. There are times when she is cranky and moody, and she rarely ever achieves all she could. To look at her from anyone else’s eyes you would never believe she was worth much. But if you could see her through the eyes of the prince, you would believe that she is “to die for.”

Because the prince determined that He couldn’t bear to live without her, he asked her to be His bride. The angels in heaven listened expectantly as she accepted his proposal. The prince promised his bride that He would come back for her soon, and the peasant turned princess pledged to faithfully await his return.

To this point the story could be like any fairy tale, but now the plot takes a bizarre twist. You would expect the bride to be always thinking about the coming wedding, but she rarely ever mentions it. You would think that her every waking moment would be lived out in anticipation and preparation for the coming of her prince.

However, by the way she lives you wouldn’t even know she’s the bride of a perfect prince. More frequently than not, you can’t even tell the difference between the bride and any of the other peasant girls in the village. There are even times when she can be seen flirting with the other men of the village in broad daylight, and who knows what she is doing when nobody is around to see!

Can you imagine a peasant girl fortunate enough to be the object of a perfect prince’s eternal love? You would expect her to be captivated by His love and filled with a sense of wonder that she was fortunate enough to be loved by Him. You would think that she would be careful to remain pure in anticipation of the return of her royal groom. Instead, to look at her you might wonder if she even remembers she is engaged at all. How could a peasant forget about her prince? Is it possible for a bride to forget her groom? (Lucado, When Christ Comes, p. 138)

We read this story and say, “I would never act like that.”  But friends, we are the Bride of Christ!  As believers, we have been espoused to Jesus Christ and He is coming back for us, and taking us to live with Him forever.

So, why didn’t the peasant girl’s behavior change? Why didn’t she get ready for her Groom?

In order for us to change our behavior, we need a change of heart. When Saul had his encounter on the road to Damascus in Acts 9 it changed his life, his name and his behavior. Until the Bride of Christ has an encounter with Jesus, her behavior won’t change.  We have heard, “People don’t change until they hurt enough, they have to, or learn enough they want to.” Pain is a megaphone, but knowledge is a much more pleasant way of learning. Changing behavior because of the knowledge acquired takes time. Thank God, we serve a patient and long-suffering Savior. 

Get ready for the Groom.  Stay ready!  Learn much about The Groom before He comes.  If we do, our lives will be transformed and we will know Him when He arrives!  Live expectantly.  Jesus IS coming back!

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 25:1-13, NLT

Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’

“All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’

“But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

THINK ABOUT IT…PRAYFULLY

The church has known for two thousand years that Jesus is coming again, and yet many believers have become lethargic and drowsy. They are no longer excited about the soon-coming of the Lord. As a result, there is little effective influencing witness given that the Lord is returning.

“The oil for burning reminds us of the special oil used in the tabernacle services (Ex. 27:20–21). Oil is usually a symbol of the Spirit of God, but I wonder if this particular oil is not also a symbol of the Word of God. The church should be “holding forth the word of life” in this dark and wicked world (Phil. 2:12–16). We need to keep the word of His patience (Rev. 3:10) and keep witnessing of the return of Jesus Christ.” (Wiersbe, Commentator)

“When the bridegroom and bride appeared, half of the bridesmaids were unable to light their lamps because they had no oil. ‘Our lamps are going out!’ they cried. The bridesmaids who had oil were able to light their lamps and keep them shining bright. It was they who entered into the wedding feast and not the foolish girls who had no oil. This suggests that not every professing Christian will enter heaven, for some really have not repented and trusted Jesus Christ sincerely. Without the Spirit of God and the Word of God, there can be no true salvation.”  (Wiersbe, Commenator)

Jesus ended this parable with the warning He had preached before: “Watch” (Matt. 24:42; 25:13). This does not mean standing on a mountaintop gazing at the heavens (Acts 1:9–11). It means “to stay awake and be alert” (Matt. 26:38–41).

Lord,

Keep us awake and alert, fully focused on You, Your Word, and Your Holy Spirit, the “oil” in our lamps, as we learn to walk with You.  Keep us from harm and from doing harm to others on their walk with you.  Help us to work with each other as your bride to continually prepare, living expectantly for your return.

Thank you, Lord for accepting me into your Kingdom.  I am not worthy of all you have done for me.  Thank you for your love.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE ONE WHO ENDURES

Jesus now gives his followers (and us) a glimpse of what the world will be like upon His return to earth.  Everyone will know for sure it is Jesus for He will come in great and mighty flashes of lightning far greater than current film artists could ever imagine or portray.  When Jesus comes back to claim all who believe, who have endured the trials, and still believe and love Him with all their hearts, minds and souls while following Him will be saved.  This is the bottom line.  Jesus saves all who believe and repent of sins, love and follow. 

“He will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.”

The “chosen” believe and are saved.  Are we prepared, alert, ready, watching for His return, joyfully expectant?  Do we believe we are one of the chosen who will survive because we endured in our faith in God by believing in Jesus Christ, His son?  We are promised that we will.  So, don’t worry about when, no one knows when but God.  Don’t worry about anything other than being ready today and every day for His coming back for His own.  Jesus IS coming back!  We need to get ready for the trip!

Matthew writes to fulfill all the previous prophetic scriptures about the Messiah.  Jesus fulfills every word the prophets of God said in his teaching.  So, in times like these, in our world today, we are sure.  We are very sure.  What was foretold will happen.  Soon and very soon.

Read slowly, carefully and prayerfully.  Read with hope and assurance—not fear.

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 24

Jesus Speaks about the Future

As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”

Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. 10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. 11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. 12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

15 “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) 16 “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. 17 A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. 18 A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. 19 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. 20 And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. 22 In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.

23 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.

26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! 27 For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. 28 Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.

29 “Immediately after the anguish of those days,

the sun will be darkened,
    the moon will give no light,
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

30 And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

32 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Abba, Father in Heaven, Lord of our lives,

We worship you alone.  We cling to your promises.  When life gets hard, we run to you for help.  When the enemy battles us, you deliver us.  When we feel alone, you draw closer to us to remind us that we are never alone.  When Your work is challenging, you show us what you want accomplished and you send more help to do it.  When we feel done and unloved, you overwhelm us with your love.  Why would I turn to anyone else but you in times like these?  There is no one like you.  I live to love and worship you with my daily life.  I live for you to help others know you, too.  I live to know you more so I will be more and more like you created me to be.  Continue to transform me to be ready for you when you come!

In Jesus Name, Amen

And I’m singing…an old, old chorus from my youth…

In times like these you need a Savior,
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
!

In times like these you need the Bible,
In times like these, O be not idle;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
!

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HOW NOT TO BE

“To be, or not to be? That is the question—Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?” The idea of whether is it better to live or to die quote is taken from Hamlet written by Shakespeare.  Let’s talk about how not to be today!

Some of us behave live we have seen our parents behave.  We can’t help it.  It’s what we know best, right?  But, some children grow up in less-than-ideal homes, living with damaged-by-life moms or dads who are not always loving and kind.  They don’t know love because they were not loved.  Some parents are selfish and mean, thinking only of themselves.  Some are just trying to “make it” through another day.  Some are dependent on drugs and alcohol to merely survive each day for they are suffering from some of the same addictive weaknesses as their parents.  Most of their money, made from in illegal ways, are used to buy more drugs instead of feeding their families. Why have children I have wondered if you do not seem to want to care for them?

Some people admittedly have children because they were too drugged up to think of using protection to prevent it.  Some have children to meet their needs of value and significance.  Many turn to their children, as soon as possible, even as young as first grade, to care for the family so they can go out and do more damage to their lives.  Yes, these babies grow up, fending for themselves, caring for each other as orphans of their parent’s sins and disabilities to parent. 

Unfortunately, most children grow up with the same destructive behaviors as their parents and grandparents.  How do I know this?  I taught these kids in public school. I had a first grader who fell asleep each day around ten each morning.  I let him nap because he told me, “My baby wouldn’t stop crying last night”.  This first grader had a mom who left him with his baby brother to care for while she prostituted herself to buy more drugs for her addiction.  His dad, who was in and out of his life, was a drug dealer.  His dad was killed eventually by those who he cheated in the drug world.  His mom was jailed.  The boy and his brother were given to their young uncle to raise.  The boys were raised in a drug-free environment and began to thrive once more.  These boys were rescued.  Our first grader’s life transformed.  Life is so precious. 

Over the years, I also listened to many kids’ stories in youth group because they were brought by some of their friends who went to church.  I prayed with many kids who wanted to break the chains of generational sin and be different.  There were those who did survive, rise above what they had been accustomed as “normal” to give their lives to Jesus.  Jesus pulled them out of the life that, in their own words, taught them “how not to be”.

Why do I write of these stories?  Simply, it’s what I know to be true because God put in places to hear and to try to help by His leading.  This is what God’s church is all about, dear friends.  We point people to Jesus for rescue, for his saving mercy and grace, for help in living life that is extremely different than what is currently considered the norm, all because of His love.  As the Body of Christ, we exist to worship Him, not each other, to lead others to Him as we serve Him in obedience of our wills.  In other words, we lay down what we want to pick up what HE wants and live life for His glory.

JESUS TAKES HIS TEACHING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER—

Jesus teaches all of us “how not to be” as he accesses the work of the Pharisees and other teachers of religious law.  He gets down to the nitty gritty, so to speak, with Truth telling.  Jesus, Son of God, as well as Son of Man, sees the inside of hearts and knows what is there and what shouldn’t be there.  Jesus speaks to his followers about what is real and what is not.  God’s Law is real and should be followed as God intended for our best life.  But the teachers are not real in the way they live. 

Watching the religious leaders live their lives has been the only example God’s people have had for generations!  Jesus comes to not only teach what God intended when He gave The Law to follow, but he came as a perfect example of how to live The Law in behavior that pleases God and gives Him glory.  Jesus points to the pretentious, religious teachers who have lost their relationship to God and teaches his followers how not to be.  Jesus is serious.  Jesus speaks clearly about pride and arrogance as their generational sin that leads to destruction and death. 

After this “sermon” of how not to be, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem who is filled with false living teachers who have blindly guided God’s people in wrong directions while oppressing them greatly.  Jesus’s mission is to bring Light to a dark world.  Jesus is still doing that today.  Jesus is our rescue from how not to live to how to thrive in God’s Kingdom of Eternal Life.  Follow Jesus.

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 23, NLT

Jesus Criticizes the Religious Leaders

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!

25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. 30 Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’

31 “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. 33 Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?

34 “Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. 35 As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, this judgment will fall on this very generation.

Jesus Grieves over Jerusalem

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. 38 And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. 39 For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Lord,

You know our hearts.  You see clearly into the depths of our souls.  You rescue us from ourselves.  You rescue us from the evil that surrounds us and tries to bring us down.  You save us and lift us up, out of what was, to what is true.  You bring Light into our darkness.  You cleanse us completely and forever with your “soul-cleansing blood”.  Thank you, Lord.  We ask that you keep us focused on You.  Deliver us from pride, arrogance, gossip, selfishness, pretense and play-acting—all the “how not to be” behaviors that displease you.  Teach me, grow me, transform me into all you created me to be. Truly, blessed are you who will come back someday to take us all home with you!

In Jesus Name, Amen

And I’m singing an old hymn that encourages me.  “Are You Washed”

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood?
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

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WHO IS MESSIAH?

Do you ever get stumped by those who mock you by questioning your faith in Jesus?  Most questions are meant by mockers to throw us off base, to get us to see how foolish we are, or to sway us into thinking there is no God.  Some even quote Scripture, out of context of course, to debate us.  Some debate for pure fun with wanting to win at all costs.  Some debate because they are arrogant.  The gospel needs no debate or defense.  The gospel is about a loving relationship.  Keep it simple.  Truth wins.

When asked about Jesus, we begin with who we know and believe.  When pressed further, we tell them why we believe as best we can for it is hard at times to explain the faith we have in our unseen Savior, the Messiah of the world to those who do not believe and have no desire to believe.  It isn’t easy to articulate the power we feel daily because we believe.  But what is easier, if you are not a preacher or teacher, is to live what we do know.  When we live a grateful life because we believe, no matter what is happening around us, the world takes notice.  When we live our daily lives fully for Jesus, asking what He wants, following His teaching, reveling in His love, mercy and grace, people see what we have and know that we are different.  Our response and reaction to challenging circumstances will always reveal what we believe to an unbelieving world.

THE DEBATE

Jesus is hard-pressed by the Pharisees who love a good debate for this is their way of life…to debate it, talk about it but rarely live it.  At this point He is surrounded by these highly religious who have little to no relationship with God, no knowledge of who God is and have lost all desire to know what God wants.  They dress in regal robes and use God’s Law and Words to merely debate and gain more power by oppressing God’s chosen people.  What a gig! 

Jesus draws them out to a new debate by asking them a question that will clearly reveal what they believe.  He stumps them to the point that they cannot answer.  Humbled by their inability to answer, they turn back their attention to getting rid of this teacher who they refuse to understand. Isn’t that what humans still do? If we can’t get people to come over to our way of thinking, fear leads to anger, so we attack or ignore them.  The Pharisees leave the debate that cannot win to further their plotting and planning to devise a way to kill the Son of God all because they do not want to lose their own limited, earthly power.  They do not know God.  So, they refuse to recognize Jesus as His Son.

BUT WHAT ABOUT NICODEMUS?

I am reminded of Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees, who fearfully met Jesus in the evening hours so know one would see him talking to Him.  Jesus saw faith the size of a mustard seed in Nicodemus so gave him what he was seeking.  When Jesus answered his questioning about religion with how to have a true relationship God forever, Nicodemus listened intently.  Here is that famous, secret conversation between the Messiah and Nicodemus;

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”    John 3:2-18, NIV

Nicodemus knew in his heart that Jesus had come from God.  He came closer to God than all other Pharisees at this point.  So, Jesus gave him what he needed most—Truth. 

So, I wonder.  Is Nicodemus one of Pharisees who surround Jesus with more questions about His authority and status with God?  Probably.  How far has Nicodemus come in his faith as His mocking peers drill the Messiah as He responds with Truth? 

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 22:41-46, NLT

Whose Son Is the Messiah?

41 Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

They replied, “He is the son of David.”

43 Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said,

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit in the place of honor at my right hand
    until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’

45 Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”

46 No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

WHO IS THE MESSIAH? 

Jesus asks a question they cannot answer.  He asks the question of us now.  “What do you think about Messiah?” The Pharisees, with hardened hearts, had knowledge of The Law, word by word, but did not know God.  They knew the Messiah would come from the line of David, “for it is written” by the prophets.  But they knew not God.  Somewhere, in the generational passing of the Word, knowing God in relationship to God was lost.

Jesus attempted to take what the Pharisees had read and knew of the Word to a place of knowing Him.  This is true belief…that we may know Him, grow in an intimate, loving relationship with Him and follow Him all the days of our lives. 

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
  John 1:14, Msg

“If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”  John 14:7, NIV  To “know” is to believe in God in relationship to God through Jesus, His Son.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”  Acts 16:31, NLT

Lord, God in Heaven,

I believe.  Give me words that tell your story accurately.  Show me your ways.  Speak to my heart for your servant is listening, expectantly, ready to obey.  Be my strength, peace, and joy for you have saved me from myself.  You are Messiah.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE FOUNDATION IS LOVE

I’m remembering a precious, humorous moment in my life as a first grade public school teacher.  There I was with a group of eight sitting around the kidney shaped table in the far corner of the room so I could see what the other students are doing while teaching the foundations of reading to this smaller group.  My eyes are on them.  Their little eyes are on me. 

I’m passionately teaching them how words are put together by symbols and sounds.  I feel like they are clued in and eager to learn.  So, I get excited!  When I finished extolling the simplicity of vowels and consonants coming together to make our words, a little girl leaned in close.  I couldn’t wait for her response because I was feeling so good about what I just taught because of their attentiveness that day.  She pointed to my neck and said, “Mrs. Callaway, I love that necklace you’re wearing!”  After a big sigh and thinking, “did you not hear anything I just said”, we talked about my necklace.  Perhaps another day we will have comprehension was my next thought.

We all get so distracted by the shiny objects of this world, don’t we?  We get confused by all the voices telling us to do this or be that.  We forget the Truth and the simplicity of Truth.  We forget the foundation upon which all of life’s relationships are based upon. 

Jesus is constantly interrupted by the pesky religious elite who try to find fault in his teaching.  I wonder how many times Jesus let out a long sigh while sparring with the religious elite who did nothing but hate with determined goals to trap and bait Him in the middle of His ministry?  Seriously, they slice and dice every word that comes from His mouth while missing the point completely because they have lost the ability to love God and love others.  Jesus goes over this basic foundation of love that all other commandments are based upon.  Do we have comprehension yet?  Not quite…

I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to the early church.  He also takes learners back to the foundation of love as being the “greatest” among all other characteristics of Jesus that we must imitate.  It seemed the church then forgot, too.  Paul preaches we can have faith, believing in God.  We can do good things for others, we can give away all we have to help those in need, but if we do not have love, our lives are nothing but a lot of noise coupled with pride and arrogance.  Paul describes God’s love as;

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”     1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13, NLT

Truly this discussion about Love began with Jesus’ reply to the religious who had no relationship with God.  Love God.  Love Others.  If we, too, truly took this seriously, we would revolutionize the world.  This is Love.  This is Jesus, the One and Only sent by God because of God’s love to us.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16, NIV

John, Jesus’ beloved disciple, explains the foundation of love with clarity.  Love is of God.  If we don’t know God, says John, then we don’t know what love is.  “I Wanna Know What Love Is”, cries out the singer of a popular song in the eighties, but do we?

God’s Love and Ours

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:7-12, NIV

God is Love

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:16-18, NIV

Love God, Love each Other

“We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”                     1 John 4:19-21, NIV

Matthew—God’s Word Fulfilled

Matthew 22:34-40, NLT

The Most Important Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Can we see now why all other commandments are based on Love?  If not, want to see my necklace?

Lord,

Help us to love like you love us.  We love only because you first loved us.  Real Life is about your love as the true foundation for all loving, forever relationships. Yes, I want to love like that.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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